Dear future generations,
I have spent the last four years of my life educating myself and others on the reality and consequences of anthropogenic climate change. I have taken approximately one class per quarter at my university that was focused on climate change to some extent. I have written countless essays, research papers, elevator pitches, etc. I have lobbied in front of elected officials in favor of stronger environmental and climate policies. I went vegan, cut my shower time in half, and switched to a more efficient vehicle, attempting to use it only when absolutely necessary, in order to reduce my individual footprint. I am 22 years old. And still, I do not represent, not by a long-shot, the youngest or most active climate activists of my generation.
The year I started college, I watched Greta Thunberg plead to world leaders to make a change, lamenting how they had stolen her dreams and her childhood with empty promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I was 19 at the time, she was 16. I cried. Her speech was raw, it was personal, but what was most heartbreaking about it was that it was completely and utterly true. My generation was born into a world in which the negative consequences of climate change were already glaringly obvious, despite being irresponsible for the emissions that caused them. Every summer since I was old enough to drive, I have had to clear ash off of my car before using it. On several occasions over the last few years, I have canceled plans because the air quality index value was above 300. This isn’t normal. And it most certainly isn’t fair.
I have reached an impasse. I feel as though people in power either aren’t listening, or they simply don’t care. After every instance in which progress appears to be being made, someone who seems to not only ignore but publicly invalidate climate science becomes a senator, congressperson, or even the president, washing said progress down the drain with a smug satisfaction that makes me feel physically sick. Older generations look to us to “be the change we wish to see in the world”; all the while putting up barricades to progress that are nearly impossible for us to knock down. Defeatism has crept into the minds of many formerly bright-eyed, headstrong young climate activists.
My hope is that this is not your reality. That when strong research showing how humans have drastically altered the climate is presented to people in power, they take it seriously. That when said climate alteration is shown to be inextricably linked to fossil fuels, those with the political power and money to end our reliance on them do exactly that. That when the masses say that they want this cycle to end, it does.
I will continue to do everything in my power to create a better reality for myself and for you. To put pressure on politicians to create stronger emissions restrictions. To hold corporations, government institutions, military forces, and other massive polluters accountable for their role in the climate crisis. By the time you are old enough to understand what’s happened and perhaps want to create change yourself, you shouldn’t have to. Until then, I leave you with hope.
A tired—but still bright-eyed and headstrong—Gen-Z climate activist